THE farm mechanisation programme spearheaded by the Government between 2007 and 2008 was not corrupt but legal with the costs taken care of by the State through the central bank’s internal operations, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr Gideon Gono stressed yesterday.
He said the programme, which was carried out during a difficult period, started as a loan and was later changed to a grant after the then Government of National Unity had approved the switch.
Deliberating during a live ZTN show yesterday, Dr Gono said what happened was legal and constitutional, as it was approved by Parliament.
“The farm mechanisation programme was not corrupt. This was a Government-executed scheme at the time of the most difficult period in the history of our country. It is unfortunate Alex Magaisa had to superimpose his opinion to label certain people as corrupt,” he said.
Dr Gono said the criteria for accessing the machinery was not political, but needed the possession of a verifiable farm and farm records.
He said a team comprising Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and the then Cold Storage Commission (CSC) and other receivers of grain would certify the records for the previous two years.
The programme was to empower good performers to do better in the interest of food security in support of land reform.
“It was not an RBZ programme, but a Government-sanctioned programme of which the RBZ was merely an implementing agent,” he said.
Dr Gono said there were senior members of the MDC who benefited from the scheme.
The former governor denied benefiting from any Government programme, saying he could account for all his properties.
“I can confirm to the world that there were over 100 000 beneficiaries of the mechanisation programme. It was categorised into two — one for animal-drawn implements and the other for tractor-drawn or mechanised equipment that included combine harvesters, tractors, planters, ploughs and vicons among other implements.
“Governments the world over have one prerogative, which is to change policy as and when they require. In our situation from 1980 to 1998, the land reform programme was going on a willing-buyer willing-seller basis until Government changed policy and went on to the fast-track land reform. Within that context there was pre-occupation with acquiring a piece of land.
“It was discovered that if productivity was going to be an issue, which it was and will still be, it was necessary to capacitate the farmer. There was need for fast-track farm mechanisation programme,” he said.
He said when the programme started, the GNU came in, a Government incorporating members of Zanu PF, the MDC-T and the MDC.
“The GNU came in 2009. There were so many changes that took place in the manner of statehood; in the manner in which things were being done and one of those was in relation to the land. The GNU changed it from being a loan to a grant,” he said.
Dr Gono, who spoke as a technocrat and superintendent of the farm mechanisation, said agriculture performed well during the GNU era due to the farm mechanisation programme with sectors such as the tobacco industry doubling production.
“During the GNU years, agriculture contributed close to 50 percent to the GDP. We had a period during which the dependence on importation of grain was reduced compared to previous years. We enjoyed some of the greatest economic programmes during the GNU, thanks to the impact of agriculture.
Dr Gono said people were talking as if it was only the farm mechanisation that was put on the RBZ assumption bill when there were others.
“The Assumption of RBZ Debt Act does not carry the $200 million that is being talked about. It was $1,35 billion-dollar Act. The impression is that the whole RBZ assumption bill was to do only with farm mechanisation. There were two lines totalling $2,5 million out of the $1,3 billion debt for storage costs and farm mechanisation spares.
“The funding was an internal matter; it was generated from internally produced income in the normal operations of the bank,” he said.
“The law as far as the RBZ was concerned was RBZ Act chapter22, Section 15 subsection 8. That paragraph says: “Nothing in this Act prevents the state from directing the Central Bank to act in a manner in which it so requires and when directed to so act, by Government the RBZ shall proceed in that manner’.
“That is the legal point, which makes the farm mechanisation and any funding of it in terms of the directive of it legal. The debt was funded by Government.
“The GNU instructed the governor that beneficiaries were not to pay. Who is the governor to go against Government to say I will go at a tangent? Besides, during that time my brother (Magaisa) was adviser to the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who was head of the implementing ministries.
Dr Gono said it was on the basis of some of these clauses that then Finance Minister Tendai Biti found the clauses offensive and he took the right channel and went to Parliament to expunge that section 8 “but that was after the horse had bolted”.
“When it comes to facts please listen to the man who was on the scene and let us not depend on the information that is leaked. I am the man who was in charge and let me talk about certain things in authority. Of the $1,3 billion the $300 million of that is before year 2000. It was about the IMF debt that was contracted in 1996. It’s about the bank Negara programme. Of 1994, it’s about the South African Reserve Bank debt of 1976. Why are we ignoring that and we are thinking that it’s all about farm mechanisation?
“When we look at post-2000 we find out that the one billion was made up of significant amounts that relate to even election-related aspects of procurement,” he said.
Dr Gono said when Mr Biti came in 2010 as Minister of Finance, they worked together.
“We sat with the IMF to divide the balance sheet into what is core to the RBZ and what is not. What is not core was elaborately identified and we said this is what Government should assume. So, all that was Government-related needed to go to the Ministry of Finance through the debt assumption,” he said.
There was nothing to take to the Government for farm mechanisation because the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development was the one responsible.
The current acting president of the MDC-A Prof Welshman Ncube by his own admission benefited not just on this programme, but on many others.
Dr Gono denied that former Malawian president benefited from the scheme but that it was his in-laws in Kadoma instead.
The former RBZ governor welcomed the new stance of the present Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister that farmers should now pay for whatever they receive from now, saying this was a noble idea.